At 50, Charismatic Renewal still draws people to Holy Spirit

| Susan Klemond | February 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Christy Plant of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul joins in praise and worship Feb. 4 at the Winter Teaching Conference sponsored by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

While musicians from St. Paul’s Outreach played high-energy praise and worship music, Christy Plant lifted her hands and swayed. More than 100 others joined in to worship the Lord with the expressive gestures that have characterized the Catholic Charismatic Renewal since it began 50 years ago.

Some looked upward as they held their arms in front of them with open palms. Others closed their eyes with hands folded, while still others joined hands and joyfully smiled as they sang.

The praise and worship followed Mass celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and further set the tone for a daylong conference Feb. 4 at Epiphany in Coon Rapids, hosted by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The annual event also marked the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, an international movement in the Church that began as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit during a retreat in 1967. It is known for renewed emphasis on praise and worship, as well as an activation of spiritual gifts including prophecy and tongues, said Peter Fastner, 65, a conference organizer and board member of the local Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office.

Titled “Father, Forgive Them,” the conference was designed to “stir up the gifts of the Holy Spirit and help people understand how to use them for God’s greater honor and glory,” Fastner said. Some of the roughly 400 attendees of all ages brought decades of experience in the Renewal, while others were just discovering it.

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda spoke about Jesus offering his apostles rest and showing compassion for the crowds. The archbishop encouraged conference attendees to open their hearts to what the Lord wanted to teach them, as Mary did, and respond with gratitude.

“We’re given in Mary that wonderful example of what it means to be a disciple, one who opens her heart to whatever it is that the Lord wants to teach her, who allows herself to be led, then offers that great ‘yes,’” he said. “All of us are called to offer that ‘yes’ in our lives as well.”

As the featured speaker, Father James Livingston, prepared to take the podium, attendees extended their hands and invoked the Holy Spirit. The pastor of St. Paul in Ham Lake, Father Livingston focused on Jesus’ call for the Church to co-create with God by practicing mercy and forgiveness, as he did.

“As Jesus breathes out his last breath, there’s something of creation taking place,” Father Livingston said. “The one forgiven is recreated. And the one who forgives becomes a co-creator and participates in his or her … being fashioned and made into the participation in the life of God.”

Single retreat sparks a movement

St. John XXIII lit a spark for the Renewal in the late 1950s with prayer for the Holy Spirit to open the Church in a new Pentecost. Inspired by Vatican II teachings, lay Catholics heard a call to open themselves to the Holy Spirit, Fastner said.

The Renewal traces its origins to a 1967 retreat at Duquesne University near Pittsburgh, where students asked the Holy Spirit to act powerfully in their lives, and several had Pentecost-like experiences. They told other students and during the next 10 years, the Renewal spread rapidly among U.S. Catholics.

It fostered dialogue with Protestants and also deepened Catholics’ interest in Scripture, the sacraments, worship through music, sharing lives and prayer for each other, and the spiritual gifts, Fastner said.

In the Twin Cities, charismatic prayer groups formed in the 1970s, some drawing hundreds. A number of the groups and communities continue to meet, said Fastner, who co-leads a group at his parish, Epiphany.

While the Renewal’s growth began to plateau in the United States in the 1980s, the movement grew exponentially overseas — and continues to grow, he said. Today, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a diverse collection of more than 120 million Catholic individuals, groups and activities in more than 200 countries, according to International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. Based in Rome, the organization coordinates, provides resources and serves as a link between the Renewal and the Holy See, which has approved it as a Private Association of the Faithful.

Renewal fruits include greater understanding of the Holy Spirit, development of ministries such as NET Ministries and St. Paul’s Outreach ­— both serving young adults and based in the Twin Cities — and growth of small faith communities, Fastner said.

All Catholics — whether charismatic or not — have in common their baptism and the fact that the Holy Spirit fosters Church unity, Fastner said, adding that the Renewal is one manifestation of God today.

While physically expressive prayer continues to be a hallmark of the Renewal experience, Plant said charismatics are also contemplatives, because the Holy Spirit leads them inward. A parishioner at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, Plant, 71, was introduced to the Renewal more than 30 years ago. She attended the conference to re-center her faith, she said.

“We’ve been going for 50 years now, and now we have the new evangelization,” she said. “The charismatic movement is poised to … deal effectively with teaching people how to bring out the evangelization teachings for other people around them. It happens in small ways.”

Stephanie Lortie, 30, of St. Peter in Mendota, was introduced to the Renewal at the conference. She hoped to get insights for career discernment. “I’ve never felt more drawn to deepen my faith, and conferences like this are the best way to do it,” she said.

St. Paul in Ham Lake parishioners Jim and Dayna Prokop were also just learning about the Renewal. After a talk that touched on spiritual gifts, Dayna, 59, said she appreciated the focus on prayer and spiritual reading as a way of being open to God’s gifts.

The Renewal isn’t a program, but a way for the Church to be alive in a new way, said Fastner, adding that he believes it will continue to bring God’s kingdom to the modern world.

“I think it’s really clear that the popes believe the Renewal has an important place in the Church, and it’s important that [it] continues to call people forth to a renewal of the Holy Spirit in their lives and working in the Church.”


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